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Mets Release Bonilla

The New York Mets finally conceded Bobby Bonilla's future with them just wasn't in the cards.

The unhappy outfielder, owed $5.9 million in the final season of his contract, was placed on unconditional release waivers Monday after agreeing to defer some of the money.

"It was a distraction and a problem we needed to address this offseason," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said.

Bonilla, who will be 37 this season, hit only .160 last year with four home runs and 18 RBIs. Bothered by a knee injury, he had only 119 at-bats.

More significantly, he argued with manager Bobby Valentine and was viewed as a troublemaker by the front office. During the climactic moments of the NL Championship Series against Atlanta, he was in the clubhouse playing cards with Rickey Henderson.

"That's certainly something we don't want any player to do," Phillips said, adding he didn't want to "bash or cast aspersions on Bobby" because "players in the game look at how teams treat other players."

Bonilla originally came to the Mets after the 1991 season as baseball's highest-paid player, but they traded him to Baltimore after 3 1/2 mostly disappointing seasons. Wanting to drop Mel Rojas, the Mets acquired Bonilla from Los Angeles for the reliever in November 1998.

Bonilla had two seasons left on his contract at $5.9 million. After the tumult of last season, he threatened to cause trouble this year unless he played regularly.

"I was looking for some reason to get me to believe it wasn't going to continue to be a distraction," Phillips said.

Even after Bonilla started last season hurt and in a slump, Phillips had hoped for a turnaround.

"There was time left to see if we could regain some of the value to the asset," Phillips said. "That didn't happen."

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